How much would you pay not to have to smell your green bin anymore?
Bradley Crepeau, the vice-president and co-founder of a Cornwall, Ont.-based company called Food Cycle Science, is wagering that consumers will be willing to part with $400 for a countertop-sized high-tech composter that can quietly and odourlessly turn your organic waste into a dried tobacco-like mulch in a single session.
"It takes a five-week process and takes it down to three hours," says Crepeau. "We're composting on fast forward."
The Food Cycler – about 15 inches square, the size of a bread-maker – accelerates the natural process of decomposition by providing what Mr. Crepeau says are ideal conditions: It heats, dries, grinds and cools organic waste, all the while constantly stirring it to introduce air.
It accepts everything that a green bin accepts: Not just vegetable waste, but everything from meat to eggshells. The company says that the resultant mulch is suitable for fertilizing plants; the bowl that holds the organics can be removed and dishwashed, so the machine itself doesn't have to live on the kitchen counter if space is tight.
The Food Cycler works through what's called aerobic digestion, in which the organic matter being digested is constantly exposed to air. This makes it distinct from the kind of anaerobic digestion you'll find in backyard composters, in which the organics sit in an airless heap. Among other differences, anaerobic breakdown can lead to methane gas as a byproduct; with aerobic digestion, the byproduct is carbon dioxide, which the Food Cycler catches in a CO2 scrubber.
Food Cycle Science got its start in 2011, making industrial-sized composters for commercial-scale operations like restaurants and casinos, who pay to have trash shipped away, and are looking for ways to cut down on waste.
"We thought, 'this is great, we've had some success in the commercial sector,' but we knew we were missing out on the residential side," says Crepeau. The company says that that their target market includes people who are looking for an alternative to getting their hands dirty with municipal organics-recycling, to say nothing of the environmentally-conscientious.
The next step for the 11-person company is to move into mid-sized composters that can work in the office environment – another place where waste reduction can impact budgets. Crepeau says that reducing waste and landfill diversion is something that many would like to take a part in, but all too often remains an abstract. Having a push-button machine that turns waste into mulch in a matter of hours, he says, offers a measure of tactile satisfaction.
"People really feel that they're engaged in the diversion of waste from landfill if they can touch it and feel it."